Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) reached an agreement with two rural churches who filed a lawsuit with the state over limitations on religious gatherings. Per her court agreement, Kelly is expected to issue new rules for public gatherings on May 4.
In Kelly’s initial shelter-in-place executive order, churches and religious services were exempt from gathering limitations. However, Kelly later changed her tune and allowed secular groups to gather with more than 10 individuals, yet still specifically limited religious group gatherings.
According to the lawsuit filed on April 16, attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) challenged Kelly’s statewide shelter-in-place orders because she allowed numerous secular spaces including bars, restaurants, libraries, and shopping malls to stay open while forcing churches to shut down.
ADF also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, which a Topeka court granted.
Prior to Easter, Kansas’s Republican-led legislature tried to overturn Kelly’s executive order, but the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the order before Easter Sunday.
According to Fox News 4, Kelly said, “under the [court settled] agreement, the two churches agree to comply with safety protocols put in place by the court.”
ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker combatted Kelly’s narrative, stating churches already proposed and abided by the safety protocols that she later adopted under pressure to end her legal discrimination against religious organizations.
“It is beyond shameful that the governor is claiming that her administration has resolved this legal challenge and that ‘under the agreement, the two churches agree to comply with safety protocols put in place by the court,’” Tucker said. “As noted in the court’s order against her, the churches themselves created and proposed those safety protocols long ago—protocols that the governor refused to consider acceptable until the court compelled her to abide by them.”
Tucker said the shelter-in-place order’s discrimination against Kansans of faith was both illogical and unconstitutional.
“Singling out churches for special punishment while allowing others to have greater freedom is both illogical and unconstitutional,” Tucker said. “That’s why Gov. Kelly has agreed to an extension of the temporary restraining order against her in our case, filed on behalf of two rural churches.”
Tucker also explained the back story of the legal dispute. He explained how Gov. Kelly expressed her belief that she would not lose this battle in court.
“The governor claims that she and her administration are ‘confident that we have the law on our side,’ but if this were true, the governor would not be consenting to an agreed motion that states that she ‘intends to issue a new executive order with less restrictive mass gathering provisions that will start May 4’ and abide by the court’s order against her for an additional 14 days, until May 16,” Tucker said.
The ADF lawyer also said the nonprofit legal organization may continue litigation if Kelly does not comply with the settlement and back-track the executive order by May 4.